Dear Donald Trump: Women Are Already Punished For Having Abortions

I vaguely remember sitting on my leather couch, drowning in a pharmaceutical, self-induced haze; I was chasing pain pills with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, waiting for the shame, judgement and pain to subside. I had an abortion two weeks prior, a decision I didn’t regret because it was the absolute best choice for me and the future I deserved. But my choice was and continues to be stigmatized — so people who claimed to love and care for me were quick to relentlessly condemn me for it. I was a murderer, they said. I was going to hell. I should be punished. So I went about the business of punishing myself through self-destruction, in the hopes that those I cared about wouldn’t hate me for choosing my life over a potential life I couldn’t adequately sustain. I bought into the anti-choice rhetoric of self-hatred and punished myself by heavily self-medicating, until I was dangerously close to successfully killing myself.

Yesterday, I was sitting on my reclinable couch, watching my toddler play with numerical blocks as I listened to front-running Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump declare that, if abortion were made illegal, women who’ve had abortions should face punishment. “There has to be some form of punishment” for the woman, Trump said, in an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews (comments his campaign later disavowed in a statement claiming that, if abortions were banned, Trump would punish doctors who performed them, rather than women). I began to contemplate the kind of “punishment” Trump could possibly be alluding to. Prison time? A fine? A public stoning (since our country often seems hell-bent on evoking biblical references in current legislation)? And then I realized that Donald Trump was behind-the-times in more ways than one.

Women in this country, and around the world, are already being punished for having abortions.

Women are being punished by having their right to safe and affordable abortions stripped from them. The Texas anti-abortion bill HB-2 has successfully closed all but 19 clinics in the second-largest state in the country — a bill that is part of an anti-abortion culture that has forced more than 100,000 Texas women to self-induce abortion over the course of their lives, by using coat hangers and other dangerous methods, like falling down stairs and hitting themselves in the abdomen.

Women are being punished by the social stigma of abortion our culture refuses to shed.

Women are being punished for having abortions by being forced to endure ridiculous and condescending waiting periods. In Utah, a 72-hour waiting period has been enacted for any woman who is seeking an abortion, even though a new study has found that waiting periods for abortions “placed financial and emotional stress on women”. The unnecessary financial and emotional difficulties cultivated by this legislation is another attempt to force women to jump through painful hoops in order to receive the medical care they need and lawfully deserve.

Women are being punished by being forced to pay for a fetus’ cremation or burial. Indiana state legislature recently passed House Bill 1337, which, in addition to restricting circumstances in which women can seek an abortion, legally requires women to “fund a funeral for an aborted fetus”.

Women are being punished by being forced to receive a mandatory ultrasounds and listen to a fetus’ heartbeat before they can legally obtain an abortion. The same Indiana bill states that an ultrasound must take place at least 18 hours prior to an abortion, for no medical reason whatsoever; the only purpose I could imagine it serving is to emotionally manipulate and vindictively shame the woman seeking the procedure.

Women are being punished when they’re forced to walk through picket lines of anti-abortion protesters, spewing hateful rhetoric — especially in light of recent legal decisions that allow protesters to demonstrate very close to clinics.

Women are being punished when they’re attacked by gun-wielding domestic terrorists, who kill abortion providers and those who legally seek their services.

Women are being punished by anti-abortion religious groups — which sometimes, sadly, include their own friends and family members — when they're called murderers and sinners and told they're going to hell. They’re bombarded with anti-choice hyperbole that evokes and promotes shame and self-hatred; because of this, many women are left sitting on a leather couch, fighting through a haze of powerful pharmaceuticals and palpable judgement.

Women are being punished by the social stigma of abortion our culture refuses to shed.

Women are being punished for being sexual beings.

Women are being punished for declaring that their lives have value; that their futures matter; that their bodies are theirs and theirs alone; that they’re the only ones who should be making their medical decisions.

In this country, 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in their lifetime, and 95% of those women won’t regret their decision to terminate a pregnancy. Donald Trump claimed that, if abortion were banned, those women should be punished; but what he fails to recognize is that, sadly, we’re being punished already. Repeatedly. Endlessly. And with a continued vindictiveness that rivals the biblical times anti-choice proponents are quick to invoke.